AN agreement to boost the eurozone bailout fund lifted London's leading shares index and helped it finish the first quarter of 2012 with gains of 3.5%.

The 17 nations will increase the fund to €700 billion (£585.4bn), beyond its current ceiling of €500bn in a bid to stop the crisis escalating.

The FTSE-100 Index, which has suffered three days of declines, closed 26.4 points higher at 5768.5, as traders picked up banking and mining stocks which had been hit by the mid-week retreat.

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That means London's blue chip shares index has added nearly 200 points since the start of 2012 despite hefty falls in the midweek amid fears about the strength of the recovery in the US and fresh gloom about the eurozone debt crisis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.4% after sentiment was further boosted by the biggest rise in US consumer spending since July. Germany's Dax and France's Cac-40 gained more than 1% yesterday.

The pound was up against the dollar at 1.60, but sterling was flat against the euro at 1.20.

Banks benefited from the improved sentiment, with Barclays up 1.1p at 235.3p, HSBC adding 7.7p to 554.8p and Lloyds rising 0.2p to 33.6p.

The heavily weighted mining sector also drove the market higher, after a weaker US dollar gave a boost to commodity prices. Antofagasta was up 30p to 1152p and Rio Tinto jumped 70.5p to 3446p.

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca made slight gains after a US district court ruled its patent for depression treatment Seroquel XR was valid.

The ruling will help ward off generic rivals until the patent expires in 2017. Shares were up 0.5p at 2779p.

Pork producer Cranswick was down 6p at 805p despite a 10% jump in like-for-like sales in the three months to March 31 across all its products.

The Hull-based group said margins would be squeezed this year.

Defence firm QinetiQ enjoyed a 6% rise after the Ministry of Defence agreed to relax its control over the company. Shares rose 9.6p to 159.3p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Petrofac up 83p at 1740p, Weir Group ahead 66p at 1764p, Man Group up 4.8p at 134.8p, and Evraz ahead 11.9p at 369.5p.